The Iowa family-of-four who were found dead in their Mexican condo while on spring break died of gas asphyxiation from a faulty water heater that had rusted in the tropical humidity, according to the main investigator in the case.
Kevin and Amy Sharp were found dead with their two children, 12-year-old son Sterling and 7-year-old daughter Adrianna, on March 22, after arriving in Tulum for spring break the week before.
Days later, the Attorney General’s Office of Quintana Roo announced in a press release on that the Sharp family passed away from inhaling toxic gas — though it remained unclear what, exactly, they had inhaled.
On Wednesday, in an exclusive interview with the Des Moines Register, the main investigator in the case has revealed that autopsies show the family inhaled high concentration of propane from a leak in the heater, which was located in the laundry room.
“There was a leak, and it was coming right from the laundry room,” Christopher Martínez of the Fiscalia General Office in Tulum told the paper through a translator. “The laundry room had no ventilation whatsoever.”
Mexican officials have said that the family’s death did not involve foul play.
“It is important to know this wasn’t a crime. It’s just something unfortunate that happened,”Martínez told the Register. “It’s something that could happen in the United States or anywhere.”
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Investigators believe the leak occurred after rust formed on the water heater following years of exposure to the humid Caribbean environment, according to the Register.
The warranty of the Delta Raptor water heater, which was purchased in 2012, expired in 2017, according to Martínez.
Martínez would not reveal the current owners of the condo, who are responsible for upkeep, the Register reported.
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The family was scheduled to check out of the condo and fly back to the United States on March 21. However, their deaths went undiscovered until their relatives reported them missing the following day. Martínez says investigators are wondering why no cleaners went into the condo the day the family checked out.
With the autopsies still pending, the family’s exact time of death remains unclear.
According to the Yucatan Times, the kids’ bodies were in the living room and their parents were in a bedroom. The four were “found in [an] advanced state of decomposition.”
A cousin of Amy’s told ABC News, “To my knowledge, they went to sleep and never woke up.”